Q&A: Sitting down with Isaiah House’s Nick Wren

By Tom Lally, Building Kentucky

Nick Wren, CEO of Isaiah House, Kentucky’s leading non-profit addiction treatment provider, sat down with Building Kentucky to discuss the state of addiction and the work Isaiah House is doing to bring hope to the Commonwealth.

Building Kentucky: What was your path to becoming the CEO of Isaiah House?

Nick Wren: Isaiah house was founded out of my home church, Cornerstone Assembly of God in Danville, Kentucky, and since my childhood I’ve had the privilege of seeing this amazing organization impact the lives of those in my community. As Isaiah House grew to become one of our state’s leaders in addiction treatment, I was pursuing a career in the field of pharmacy. Years after receiving my PharmD from the University of Kentucky, I was given the opportunity to operate as a market director of a Fortune 500 company. It was then that the founder of Isaiah House asked me to consider joining the team here. I consider that a real God moment, bringing my life full circle. I initially started as the VP of Strategic Initiatives at Isaiah House, where my role was to focus on the strategic direction and implementation of initiatives that would serve to propel our organization into the future. This required me to work interdepartmentally with all the existing areas within our organization, allowing me the unique opportunity to gain a wholistic understanding of every department and nuance that we have prior to stepping into my new role as CEO.

Building Kentucky: How have you been impacted by addiction?

Nick Wren: I, like so many of my fellow Kentuckians, have been impacted by the ravaging effects addiction has on our communities and our families. While I could tell you about my extended family, or the patients I had the privilege of interacting with in my work as a pharmacist, I think the most universal connection I have is through those lives lost too soon from my high school graduating class. Four people that I walked the stage with back in 2010 have lost their lives to addiction. I look back at my graduating class, the people I grew up and learned alongside, and I know that citizens of every city across our Commonwealth are experiencing those same struggles. I find it to be a privilege to work alongside an exceptional team here at the Isaiah House every day to ensure that everyone who needs access to effective, evidence-based treatment, gets it.

Building Kentucky: Has your career as a pharmacist impacted your perception of addiction?

Nick Wren: I actually think the opposite is true; my experience in the addiction treatment field has shown me just how great of an impact pharmacists can have on getting their patients the help they need that I took for granted when I was actively practicing. For pharmacists, especially those who have never struggled with addiction personally, it can be easy to become jaded and apathetic towards those struggling with addiction and difficult to approach them with empathy. Thankfully, moving into my new role at the Isaiah House and having the privilege of working alongside men and women who’ve come through so much to achieve the success they’ve had in their recovery has helped me develop that much needed empathy that I’m ashamed to say I believe was lacking early in my career. I want these healthcare providers to know there are signs, there are symptoms and, most importantly, there are resources to address addiction. I’ve taken it upon myself to inform and empower the pharmacists I know personally to practice empathy and aid their patients in seeking the help they need.

Building Kentucky: What is a recent success you’ve experienced?

Nick Wren: I’m a firm believer that when you focus on making others successful, success will follow. And a success should be celebrated, no matter how small it may seem to you. I will never miss an Isaiah House graduation, as long as it’s within my power. To see those men and women graduate from this program, knowing the investment that our staff has poured into them for nearly a year is priceless. And it gets even better when you get to see some of them become employees! Just yesterday, I went to talk to a young man who is working as a custodian in one of our locations. I walked into his office space and saw one lone picture on the wall, that his mother took, of him and I at his graduation. I’ll tell you what, I teared up, I gave him a hug and I told him I was proud of him.

Building Kentucky: What sets Isaiah House apart from other addiction treatment providers?

Nick Wren: In the state of Kentucky there is no shortage of what I would label “short-term” treatment beds. While we understand that every client’s needs and situation are different, we also know that short-term treatment is far less effective than long-term. Isaiah House has, since its inception, provided long-term treatment, and we’re continually seeking to expand access to that option for our clients. We help them get their GED, find gainful employment, navigate through court cases, and resolve child support issues, among other things. You can’t eradicate these obstacles to long-term recovery in 4-6 weeks. So I believe our heart and our focus on long-term treatment sets us apart and makes us unique.

Building Kentucky: What does the road ahead look like for you and Isaiah House?

Nick Wren: Isaiah House has, and will continue, to stay true to our mission of providing comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for individuals with substance use disorder by instilling hope through healing, opportunity, purpose, education, and employment for lifelong success. We believe this is best achieved in our long-term, Christ-centered treatment centers, and I’m confident that if we don’t forget where we came from, don’t forget why we’re here, and don’t grow weary in doing good, that God will richly bless the Isaiah House and all who enter our doors.  

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